The Soul of Man Under Socialism

 “(..)But the past is of no importance. The present is of no importance. It is with the future that we have to deal. For the past is what man should not have been. The present is what man ought not to be. The future is what artists are.”

“(..)But it is exactly these existing conditions that one objects to; and any scheme that could accept these conditions is wrong and foolish. The conditions will be done away with, and human nature will change. The only thing that one really knows about human nature is that it changes. (..) The systems that fail are those that rely on the permanency of human nature, and not on its growth and development.It is to be noted that Individualism does not come to the man with any sickly cant about duty, which merely means doing what other people want because they want it; or any hideous cant about self-sacrifice, which is merely a survival of savage mutilation. In fact, it does not come to a man with any claims upon him at all. It comes naturally and inevitably out of man. (..)”

“(..)The new Individualism, for whose service Socialism, whether it wills it or not, is working, will be perfect harmony.(..)” Oscar Wilde, “The Soul of Man Under Socialism”, The works of Oscar Wilde, Collins London & Glasgow, 1949, pp. 1039-1043.

[Re-posted from the Old Site, original dated December 12th 2007. Only small adaptations made, it’s surprising I was so open to conservatism back then but the argument is a good one and the remark below therefore has to stand.]

I could have written this better. William Blake could not. Oscar Wilde is older than I am but by far the younger of Blake.

As simple as that (if you read on):

Not quite what you would expect of the decadent Wilde. Many would like us to believe that the absence of sour grapes is the absence of thought. Quite the opposite, sour grapes comes from rehearsing worn thoughts & jealously preventing others from coming up with new ones.

Such a negative attidtude is a particularly political state of mind.

I always wondered about Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence, and I’m sure I will never get it, but just listen to the everyday politicians and you feel the weight of the thought. There is a certain something that makes politicians repeat over & over again what some leader or other quoted from an “original” text. It is the ready-made, but worn out, analysis of the past applied to the present. This counts as the ‘authentic’ whilst it is not more appetizing than the sunday meal warmed up and served for the fifth time on friday.

It does not have to be like that.

Socialism is not different in its duty-bound and self-sacrificing everyday outings; but it’s different in being condemned to follow everyday man. Willing or not, this everyday man is a man of his time, a man having no options but to live for the future. Creation is man’s business for a simple reason: every moment creates a situation that is entirely new, to which situation one can only respond creatively … or die. This is not stress or fulfilling whatever kind of claim; it is merely unavoidable authenticity. To John Smith, it will always seem oddly unreal, this strange repetitive business of politics.

One of the more ironic twists in socialism is its periodic confusion with political ‘progressive’ movements. Progressive rarely correlates with the Soul of Man & if it does it is by sheer coincidence. In essence the file rouge of all progressive movements is to claim ‘authenticity’ by repeating tunes slightly older than the one currently mainstream (funnily enough conservatives are more progressive in adopting a tune that is older still).

Progressives on the average hate progress. They abhor change – just look at the way they – sometimes literally – doom individual consumption as damning. One will be hard pressed to find progressives which do not in some way want us to be redeemed. As individuals we need to be improved, one by one, not by allowing us the freedom to create a new kind of life but by reconfirming us to some ‘authentic’ image. You fill in the dots, progressives just complete the Christian tradition of self-loathing. Conservatives are to be preferred then as they merely ask us to put on the show of self-loathing for the benefit of some public and stable order.

Organized socialism rarely wills change – just see how opposed they were to general voting rights – but organization does not matter too much to the long run of socialism. Socialism is condemned to follow the individual’s desires – as the only real claim of socialism are the furthering of those individual’s desires.

 There simply is no historical framework or other form of melancholy present in the movement as long as one is optimistic about the natural way the perfect harmony will come to be. Organized socialism is self-defeating. The organized aspect of it needs for its cohesion some progressive or other frame but in the long run the final goal of the people’s progress will always break down these adopted frames.

Luckily for socialism, the least stable star on the political firmament is socialism.

[Whilst writing this I was listening to: “The ornette coleman trio at the “golden circle” stockholm” Vol 1, Blue Note.]


12 responses to “The Soul of Man Under Socialism

  1. marlombrando

    Sorry to comment on something it’s probably not at the heart of this thought…..but it’s interesting to see how all the “isms” in history are subject to interpretations.
    Which are maybe right or maybe wrong (who cares, by the way?)…
    The only way one may have to get something more than a interpretation is to experience them. Through experience we may have a judgement and not only a subjective interpetation.
    But Christians do not self-loath. They could as everybody else could. No more, no less.
    Why should they do that?
    Maybe as a reaction to a self-observation on their poor humanity compared to an ideal of perfect human being leading to something desperate reaction like “I will never make it…”?
    Christian proposal is not to try to be as close as possible to that perfect man. If it would be like that, it would be nothing more then a lie and a sentence, a verdict of guilty: who would be able to get there? nobody (priests included).
    Salvation is not for perfect men. It’s for all men who believe (and also for those who don’t) and embrace themselves (and others) as loathing as they are.

  2. I’m not a Christian so cannot answer you in the first person perspective. Then again, I’m not a Christian so the first person perspective is in these matters not the final one. Sorry, let me cut to the chase: this is an old post but I’m sure I was referring to the concept of original sin. I have nothing against perfectability of men & I agree with you that there is no goal of final perfection: but I have a serious issue with the concept of original sin & I think it’s a necessary element of Christianity.

  3. marlombrando

    I can understand there could be a problem with original sin (which one?), as I think it’s (one of) the most-hated words\concepts by modern men. Because it declares a limit to what a man (with his\her liberty and reason) is capable of….which is difficult to accept.

  4. It is impossible to accept a limit to what man is capable of even if it is for sure that there are a great many things man will never be capable of. But that isn’t where the problem with original sin is. The problem with original sin is not the limit it sets in the future (the limit to achieving a man-made Utopia for instance) but rather a corruption it presupposes in all of us and that we carry from the past. If you make your Christianity sufficiently reasonable you will not see the latter but a question is whether a Christianity thus made reasonable is still recognizable as Christian by most Christians. I think not; it is a necessary part of religion to see evil inside of us and from which we need to be liberated by something outside of us. I think that is what Oscar Wilde thought (and what he thought was not too far from what a cardinal Romero would have thought, I gladly admit).

  5. marlombrando

    even the limit of your original dependance is impossible to admit? i.e. why do you breath? sure not because you decide it or because you do anything to do it. isn’t this a recognisable limit?
    by the way? why this pre-supposed corruption is a problem to you?

  6. Unfortunately it is possible to stop breathing by decision. Fortunately it is possible to live even if you are technically unable to do so.

    You cannot avoid to be born, that is true, but I like to see that as an original virtue. This is not just a dismissive remark, the pre-supposed corruption makes all of us (including the one that self-loathingly believes himself to be so corrupted) into guilt by default. It is not a coincidence that the secular systems work from point of view of innocence by default.

    It really is a central point. I do not believe many believers really believe in original sin; but the ‘system’ needs them to feel guilty.

  7. marlombrando

    not referring to euthanasia…it’s just the fact that normally life is given and nobody can do nothing to give him\herself life (not yet at least).

    I agree that’s (one of the) central point. I do not think it’s about guiltiness or innocence. That’s not the real essence of christian announcement. it’s about the above: man IS dependance from something else. and in this dependance lies real freedom. Christianity is not really a system (there could be, I admit, but it’s not the heart of it)

  8. Yes, marlombrando, if you depopulate Christianity from guilt and make it about how we should NOT think in terms of final solutions, we can agree. But I’m not that nice to Christianity, I’m not as forgiving for what it did and still does in its Catholic and other variants. I’m sure I’m too harsh but then again I’m sure you can say it all without reference to Christianity, or even Christ. To be good is a qualification that obtains regardless of religious labels. It is as simple as that.

  9. marlombrando

    this comes from The Possessed by my friend Fedor (could be a quought then….in an amateuristic, bad translation).
    “is it possible to believe in Evil without believing in God?” Stavrogin answers (laughing) “sure yes, it happens continuously”. And then Tichon “absolute atheists stand on the last but one rung of the most perfect Faith….and no-one knows if they overstep it or not, while the cold indifferent subjects have no more any faith except a bad fear” (that’s why I have a sympathy for anarchists and atheists, btw).
    God (and Christ) embraces all the reality, including the drama of evil and the drama of men ‘s freedom to adhere to evil.
    God cannot be found within a system or at the and of an analytical demonstration, because a demonstration in no more than a proof (sum a 2 to another 2 and have a 4, thus Goid exists). God is evidence because God is (self)revelation (which is btw the only possible definition of God).
    Evidence, being revelation, is given for free to everybody and triggers freedom: here freedom is at it’s highest. In from of a demonstration you’re forced; in front of a revelation freedom is attracted.
    Those refusing evidence refuse God: God may be a problem, a system, a moralistic dilemma but they would never meet God.
    The essence of religion is definitely out of any reasoning, any guilt, any crime, any atheism; in religion lies something which is elusive and atheists will ever fly over this, talking about something else than this, as in their freedom they will never yield to the evidence revealing (also) to them.

  10. Fedor! I never have taken anything he wrote on face value. My lack of faith is only lack of religious faith and religious faith for me is something that comes of a bad fear (just see the classical image of the eye of ‘God is wathing you’). Anyway, I don’t like paradox too much and will yield to your last word. When I have time again I will quote something from Musil on original virtue vs. original sin (which is where this started, not everything needs to be turned into an argument about God, not at least when you are so sure you need no argument, pardon the snark).

  11. Aljas de Paljas

    Religion fundamentally sees humans as broken entities that need fixing. There is no fundamental theory behind this (neuroscientists are some years away in even understanding the basics here). The original sin is laughable since most people typically engage in mutually benificial behaviour during the vast majority of the time. Only when religion or states get involved, the situation quickly runs out of hand and a rational count of all non-natural deaths in the last 2000 years will show that at least murder is predominantly located when religions or states get involved.

  12. You clearly should read more of this (and don’t forget to drop by The Old Site).

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